“Right,” he said. “The copycat—Jack the Second.” Shit, he thought. He had to get a handle on this. On her.
“I think it’s my turn to ask questions. What year were you born?”
For a moment there was silence in the room. Neely was trying to process everything he’d told her. He seemed to be quite familiar with psychic time travel. But she wasn’t so sure about the Prime Directive and his fixation on what year she was born. One possibility was that he was from the future. A little thrill moved through her at the thought. The only other option was that he was a homeless person—someone who’d been skipping his medications.
As the silence stretched, she tried to decide which option she preferred—time traveler from the future or homeless mental patient. But her body didn’t seem to prefer one over the other. Just sitting there, looking at him, she felt longing begin to flare up inside of her again. The room seemed to grow smaller, and once again all she could hear was the sound of their breathing. She could see the bed beyond his shoulder, and she couldn’t help wondering what it would be like to have real sex with him.
How could he have this power over her? Even not knowing exactly who or what he was, she wanted to get out of her chair and…
“Gale. Max Gale.”
Neely blinked, and when she met his eyes directly, she knew that he’d read her thoughts.
“I’m not a mental patient. I’m from 2128. And I think we’d better get out of this room unless—” he gestured toward the bed “—you want to go another round. This time for real.”
Heat flared in her cheeks as she rose and led the way to the door.
“NO! NO! NO!”
He drained the cognac glass and hurled it against the wall. Crystal shards flew everywhere. One grazed his cheek, but he paid it no heed. What he saw in his mind blocked everything else. The woman from Mitre Square had been there in Buck’s Row. He’d felt her even before the fog had shifted and he’d spotted her trying to hide against that hedge. She’d sensed him, too—even though he’d willed himself invisible.
Seizing the opportunity, he’d decided to eliminate her. He’d had the blade of his knife pressed along her cheek, anticipating the pleasure of seeing it slice through that delicate skin, when the bitch had sprayed him with something that had blinded him. He’d panicked and run back here.
When rage threatened to bubble up again, he clenched his hands together and took a deep breath. The woman wasn’t his only problem. Max Gale had been in Buck’s Row, too. TGS’s best hunter had appeared just as he was walking away from Mary Ann Nichols’s body. Thank God, he’d been invisible, and Gale hadn’t sensed his presence the way the woman had.
Still it had been a close call.
He’d taken a risk by killing Suzanna Gale. But he’d had no choice. He’d shared his secret with her. Then he’d seen in her eyes that she was going to betray him. He couldn’t allow that. Gale’s presence in 1888 had to mean that he suspected the 2128 Ripper of being a time traveler.
This time it was panic that he had to shove back. Unclenching his fists, he told himself that Max Gale was a threat he could handle. There was a good chance because of his relationship with Suzanna that he was working on his own, without authorization. A word dropped in the right place at TGS might eliminate the problem.
If that didn’t work, he’d kill him just as he intended to kill the woman.
MAX LEANED AGAINST the counter and watched as Neely moved about the kitchen preparing them something to eat. The coffee she’d made had given him just the jolt he’d needed to clear his mind. He believed everything she’d told him, but he knew that she hadn’t reached the same level of trust where he was concerned. And he still hadn’t decided how much he was going to tell her about his mission.On the one hand, it amused him that she suspected he might be a homeless person who’d gone off his meds. He was quite familiar with the problems that had plagued major cities until the twenty-first century. On the other hand, he thought that establishing mutual trust would be beneficial, and he was considering how to convince her that he was indeed from the year 2128.
Then he might be able to come up with a plan to solve his main problem. What he had on his hands was a time traveler with very strong psychic powers. In his experience, it required skill and a lot of practice to arrive in the past at a specific time, but Neely seemed to have a natural talent for it. And he had some kind of psychic connection with her. What they’d done in her bed—well, he’d never experienced anything like that before.
Getting out of the bedroom had been a wise decision, but it hadn’t eliminated the problem. Not by a long shot. He still wanted her. He couldn’t get the taste of her out of his mind. Nor could he stop himself from wondering, if mental sex had been that good, what would the real thing be like?
She turned then and when their gazes locked, he knew that the image filled both of their minds—they were naked, skin to skin, exploring each other with mouths and hands. Seconds ticked by, but neither of them moved. If they did, what they were imagining would become a reality.
Neely was the one who finally broke eye contact and cleared her throat. “How’s the toast coming?”
“The toast?” It took a moment for his blood-and-oxygen-starved brain to compute what she’d said. Then he glanced at the metal box she’d slipped two slices of bread into. The wires inside glowed red. A primitive use of electricity. “Fine.”
Max gave himself a mental shake, then settled his hip against the counter and tried to relax. He was a grown man, in charge of his libido. Or at least he always had been before. He simply had to focus on what was actually going on in the kitchen.
She smacked a small oval-shaped ball against the edge of the counter, then let the contents fall into a bowl.
“You broke it.”
“I have to get them out of the shell if I’m going to scramble them. Don’t you have eggs in whatever year you’re from?”
“2128. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one.”
“You don’t sound convinced.”
“Think fast.” She tossed an egg at him and he caught it, then opened his palm to study it.
“You really don’t have them in 2128?”
“I’m sure we have something like them growing in our food production labs.”
She tilted her head to one side. “In 2008, we still grow them in chickens. Go ahead. Crack that one open.”
He moved to the counter where she was working and imitated what she’d done with the first egg. “You’re testing me, aren’t you?”
She sent him a sideways glance as she cracked more eggs into the bowl and began to stir them together. “It’s not every day that someone walks into my life and claims to be from the future.”
“You’ve decided I’m not a homeless person then?”
“Almost. Your reflexes are pretty good, and you were fascinated with my toaster.” Turning, she met his eyes squarely.
“Of course, it could be an act. There’s got to be something you can do to prove to me that you’re really from the future.”
“How about I make myself invisible?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Right.”
Max concentrated and watched astonishment spread over her features. The fork in her hand clattered to the floor. She reached out, and when her palm connected with his chest, she snatched it back as if she’d been burned.
Max allowed himself to become visible again. “Proof enough?”
She stared at him wide-eyed. “That’s what you did when you were in the little park up the street, right?”
“How do you do it?”
“It’s a skill that anyone who is licensed to travel through time is required to master. We’re much more likely to be able to follow the Prime Directive if we’re not visible to the people in the times we visit.”
“Could I learn how to do it?”
“Perhaps. Your psychic powers seem to be very strong.”
“I…” She wiped her palms on her jeans. “You’re really from the future, and you got here the same way that I’m getting back to 1888. Okay. It might take me a little time to process that.”
Max was surprised at how much effort he had to put into not reaching out to her then. But that would be a mistake. “If it’s any consolation, I’m having just as much trouble trying to accept what you are and what you can do.” He had a gut feeling that he didn’t know the half of it yet.
“Well.” She shifted her attention away from him. “I guess I better get these eggs finished.”
Max squatted to pick up the fork she’d dropped, and when he handed it to her, his fingers brushed against hers. He felt the connection sizzle hot and wild right through him, and he knew by the widening of her eyes that she felt it, too.
“What is that?” she asked.
Trouble with a capital T. “We both know what it is. And we both know what we want to do about it.” He took two careful steps back. “For now, why don’t you finish cooking those eggs.”
Max was well aware that he should be questioning her and finding answers. There was still a lot that she hadn’t told him. She’d have more questions, too, he was sure. The woman seemed to be full of them. He watched her pour the egg mixture in the bowl into a container that she’d set over a flame. “How’s your coffee?”